This Guy Wants to Kill Amtrak.
On Wednesday, 147 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to kill Amtrak. Fortunately, 272 other members voted the other way, but if you want an good indication of what we’re up against, there it is.
Anti-Amtrak proposals surface every year, but they’re usually camouflaged in some way to make them appear reasonable—demanding that Amtrak operate its food service at a profit, for example.
But this one was different because it made no bones about its objective. It would have eliminated all federal funding for Amtrak, and that would effectively mean the end of Amtrak’s long-distance and short-haul trains everywhere outside of the Northeast Corridor (Washington-New York-Boston). And quite possibly even there.
The principal culprit, the guy behind this awful idea, was Rep. Tom McClintock, a Republican from California. His frontal attack on Amtrak’s funding came in the form of a proposed amendment to the Passenger Rail Reform and Investment Act of 2015 (PRRIA-2015). Ironically, both the Capital Corridor trains and Amtrak’s iconic California Zephyr pass through McClintock’s district.
As noted, McClintock’s amendment was voted down by a 2-to-1 margin and, later in the same session, PRRIA was passed by the House.
But here’s the interesting thing: there were 47 Republicans who voted for McClintock’s amendment to deny federal funding for Amtrak, but who also voted for PRRIA-2015, which provides Amtrak with $8 billion over the next five years. In other words, first they voted to kill Amtrak, then they voted to fund it. Go figure!
One of my colleagues on the NARP board of directors, a veteran observer of these complex political machinations, has a very plausible theory to explain those completely contradictory votes.
He thinks the votes were cast by members who want to have it both ways. If they get an email complaining about Amtrak, they can cite their recorded vote on McClintock’s amendment. But if a pro-Amtrak constituent contacts them, they’ll proudly point to their vote on the PRRIA bill.
Gee … you’d have to have pretty low opinion of those people to believe that, wouldn’t you?